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Restricted Access Thesis

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Erika Nyhus


Meditation is the practice of cognitive control; rather than a period of relaxation, it is a mental exercise involving letting go of thoughts and feelings in order to clear the mind and focus on the present moment. While meditation has been shown to improve attention and working memory and potentially increase the likelihood of forming false memories (Wilson et al., 2015), there have been no studies investigating the potential of meditation to improve long-term memory. The purpose of this study is to explore the effects of mindfulness meditation on long- term memory, specifically episodic memory, using a longitudinal study in which the only manipulated variable is the practice of mindfulness. We hypothesized that the subjects who underwent a four-week mindfulness meditation course would show improved source memory task scores and increased theta oscillation power. Subjects took an initial source memory test while their brainwaves were recorded with an EEG, and then the experimental group underwent four weeks of mindfulness meditation training and practice while the control group was waitlisted. Then, all subjects were brought back for a follow-up memory test and EEG recordings. Ultimately, the meditation intervention did not have an effect on the subjects’ source memory task scores or theta oscillation power. This null result may be due to the fact that subjects only meditated for 52.5% of the time that we had asked that they practice for and that it is impossible for an experimenter to monitor the quality of a meditative practice. Although there were no group by time interactions for source memory task scores and changes in brainwaves, there was a correlation between time spent meditating and increases in theta oscillations during successful source memory retrieval, suggesting that future studies conduct further research on the effects of meditative practices on changes in neural oscillations.


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